Wales' middle-distance star Melissa Courtney was backed by the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund. Pic: Getty Images

Crunch Time For Welsh Athletes With Euro Spots Up For Grabs

It is crunch time for many of Wales’ leading athletes this weekend with places in the British team for the European Championships on the line at the British Championships in Birmingham.

For the steeplechase duo of Jon Hopkins and Ieuan Thomas it will be the chance to convert their brilliant year to date into another major championship outing.

Sixth and seventh respectively in the final at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Thomas is currently ranked second in the UK this year and Hopkins third. More importantly, they have both dipped under the qualifying standard for the Euros in Berlin.

The top two athletes in every event, providing they have achieved the standard, will get automatic selection. Wales have already got four women into the Berlin-bound British team, Charlotte Arter (10,000 metres) Bethan Davies (20k walk), Caryl Jones (marathon) and Heather Lewis (20k walk), and that number is set to rise by Sunday.

Both Thomas (8.30.16) and Hopkins (8.30.52) have the experience and pedigree to make the podium this weekend, with their toughest rival being the current UK leader in the event, Zak Seddon (8.26.51). If Thomas runs to his full potential then he could make his third major championship in the space of a year having run at the World Championships in London last summer.

“I’d expect both steeplechasers to be in the mix for the medals in Birmingham. If they run to form then they should add to our four team members so far,” said Scott Simpson, the departing head of coaching and performance at Welsh Athletics.

“We could have as many as eight athletes in the British team in Berlin if things go to plan. Dai Greene needs to negotiate two rounds in the 400 hurdles to make the team having clocked 49.59 sec in Poland eight days ago and David Omoregie is showing signs of getting back to his best form in the 110 hurdles.

“He ran 13.79 sec in France this month and needs to get down to 13.60 sec to reach the standard. Seren Bundy-Davies is hoping to return to push for a place in the 4 x 400 relay squad, as is Owen Smith in the men’s race.

“Melissa Courtney has a decision to make as to which event she runs this weekend having qualified in both the 1500 and 5000 metres. She tops the rankings over 5k and is third over 1500, so she is another very strong contender for Berlin.

“If you go back four years there were no Welsh athletes in the British team for the 2014 European Championships, Seren was the only one at the World Championships in Beijing in 2015 and the Rio Olympics in 2016, yet we had five at the World Championships in London last year.”

If Wales could get up to eight athletes into the Berlin team they would come on top of of Jake Heyward (1500), Joe Brier (4 x 400 relay) and James Tomlinson (discus) being selected for this year’s Junior World Championships and Kiara Frizelle (3000 metres) and Ben Thomas (2000 s/c) heading to the European Under 18 Championships.

Cardiff AAC discus thrower Brett Morse needs to rediscover some of his old form to make another British team despite being the second longest discus thrower in the country this summer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *